2014 San Francisco Fancy Food Show Finds

Cheese expert Raymond Hook reveals his favorite new products

Simple & Crisp

These crisps are made of pure fruit, and come in apple, pear, orange, and blood orange varieties.

The 2014 San Francisco Fancy Food Show has come and gone, and thousands of exciting and delicious new food products were on display. While the cheese department was brimming with great finds, these five were true standouts:

Big Picture Farms Goat Milk Caramels
In a nutshell: handmade, farmstead, raw goat’s milk caramels. These smooth, creamy caramels were rich and flavorful without being overly sweet. I loved the Sea Salt and Bourbon Vanilla version, but don’t overlook the delicate Chai or bold Maple Cream flavors!

Savannah Bee Company Cheese Honey
It’s no secret that I like cheese, and serving cheese with honey is one of my all-time favorite pairings. This is the honey to use. The not-too-sweet delicacy is the perfect match for most firm cheeses and can stand up to big washed-rind cheeses as well. Savannah Bee Company suggests dipping a grilled cheese sandwich in their ecologically responsible, Kosher honey; now I know what I am having for lunch.

Guffanti Formaggi Sola Di Pecora
A square, aged sheep’s milk cheese from Cuneo, in the Piedmont region of Italy. The version I tasted at the Fancy Food Show was at least 90 days old, firm with a nice protein crystal crunch, and had plenty of sheep flavor without being overpowering to its subtle herbal elements. This type of cheese is what makes me love sheep’s milk cheeses; it is all about the balance of animal flavor – the Portuguese use the term “whiff of the tail,” salt – just the right amount to enhance flavor, and the time it takes to age the cheese to achieve a perfect harmony of taste.

Simple & Crisp Dried Fruit Crisps
These delectable artisanal crisps come in four varieties: Apple, Pear, Orange, and my favorite, Blood Orange. Uncomplicated, pure dried fruit slices is exactly what they are, and they’re the ideal complement to cheese, especially soft and creamy cheeses. They are slightly sweet and each variety maintains its true fruit flavor. These were without a doubt one of the most flavorful, elegant accompaniments I have had with cheese in a long time. They will now be a staple in my cupboard.

La Fromagerie des Ardennes Wavreumont
An incredible handmade washed-rind organic cow’s milk cheese from La Fromagerie des Ardennes in eastern Belgium. It is a Trappist-style, raw milk cheese that becomes fudgy in texture – and a bit stronger in flavor – as it ages, and I can attest that it is highly addictive. I must have eaten half a pound while “interviewing” Peter Verbruggen, the owner of Cheese – Made in Belgium, and it was undoubtedly one of the gastronomic highlights of my Fancy Food Show experience.

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